Connacht knew a losing bonus-point would have been enough to seal a first appearance in the Champions Cup last-eight and never gave up in their hunt for a last-gasp score.
But a determined Toulouse held strong after a quick-fire start that saw them score twice in the first quarter through Gael Fickou and Arthur Bonneval. Outhalf Jean-Marc Doussain kicked the two conversions to put the home side 14 – 0 up after 20 minutes.
Connacht finally got on the board after 33 minutes with a penalty kicked by centre Craig Ronaldson but Quinn Roux was shown a yellow card just before half-time.
Half time: Toulouse 14 – 3 Connacht
Toulouse continued to pile on the pressure after the break with their one-man advantage and just as Connacht were back to full strength, Joe Tekori peeled off the back of a powerful maul to score and make it 19-3.
But minutes later, Connacht were on the attack and a penalty lead to a five-metre lineout. Peter Robb made good ground with a powerful run down the centre before the ball was shipped to John Muldoon, who barged his way over. Ronaldson converted to cut the gap to 19-10 with 25 minutes of play remaining.
While all that was needed was a penalty or drop goal to advance, Pat Lam’s side were also aware that they needed to prevent Toulouse from scoring a fourth bonus-point try. A tense finish ensued but Toulouse held on to secure best runner-up from Pool 2. The French side will travel to Thomond Park to take-on Munster at Thomond Park.
Full time: Toulouse 19 – 10 Connnacht
TOULOUSE: Yoann Huget; Arthur Bonneval, Yann David, Gaël Fickou, Paul Perez; Jean-Marc Doussain, Sébastien Bézy; Cyril Baille (Vasil Kakovin ’66), Christopher Tolofua (Leonardo Ghiraldini ’68), Census Johnston (Maks van Dyk ’66); Richie Gray, Yoann Maestri; Joe Tekori (Gillian Galan ’68), Thierry Dusautoir (captain), François Cros (Piula Faasalele ’71).
Replacements not used: Talalelei Gray, Toby Flood, Alexis Palisson
CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun (HIA – Danie Poolman ’63), Peter Robb, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (John Cooney ’75); Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’65), Finlay Bealham (John Andress ’75); Quinn Roux (yellow card ’37); James Cannon; Nepia Fox-Matamua (Sean O’Brien ’63), Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (captain).
Replacements not used: JP Cooney, Naulia Dawai, Tom Farrell.
Referee: Wayne Barnes [RFU].
Attendance: 12, 023.